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Donald Trump nominates acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to permanent position

On January 9, President Donald Trump nominated acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler to lead the agency. Wheeler took over as EPA administrator on an interim basis when Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5, 2018. The Environment and Public Works Committee of the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing on Wheeler’s nomination on January 16, 2019. The committee must approve Wheeler before the full Senate may vote on his nomination.
 
Wheeler served as deputy administrator of the EPA from April 12 to July 9, 2018. Prior to serving as deputy administrator, Wheeler had worked as a lobbyist and lawyer. His lobbying clients included the coal company Murray Energy. Before lobbying, Wheeler worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate, including stints as general counsel for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Wheeler also worked in the EPA’s Pollution Prevention and Toxics office during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations from 1991 to 1995. 


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) sworn into office

On January 8, 2019, Ron DeSantis (R) was sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor. DeSantis succeeds Rick Scott (R), who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, as governor. His lieutenant governor is Jeanette Nunez (R).
 
DeSantis is a former United States Representative from Florida. He defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) in the gubernatorial election, which Ballotpedia designated as a 2018 battleground election.
 
Prior to the 2018 election, Florida was a Republican trifecta, and the state retained that status following the election. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.


Kentucky State Senate passes its first bill of 2019—a 2020 ballot measure to move state executive elections to presidential election years

On January 10, 2019, the Kentucky State Senate approved a constitutional amendment to change the election date for state executive officials from odd-numbered years to even-numbered presidential election years beginning in 2028. The vote was 31-4. Senate Republicans supported the amendment, while Democrats were divided 4-4. The constitutional amendment needs 60 votes in the state House, assuming no vacancies, to make the ballot on November 3, 2020.
 
The following offices would have their elections moved from odd-numbered to even-numbered years: governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, attorney general, secretary of state, and commissioner of agriculture. The last election for state executive officials in Kentucky was November 3, 2015. The next election is scheduled for November 5, 2019. The measure would make the election on November 7, 2023, the last to be held in an odd-numbered year. Officials elected in 2023 would serve a five-year term, rather than a four-year term, until officials elected on November 7, 2028, were seated.
 
Sen. Christian McDaniel (R), who is sponsoring the amendment, said moving the election date would save the state about $15 million. Sen. Wil Schroder (D), one of the Democrats who voted for the amendment, said he believed that the move would double voter turnout in state executive races. Sen. Robin Webb (D) voted against the amendment, saying, “Kentucky needs to be allowed to focus on Kentucky issues and set aside the national fray… that sometimes are not as relatable to the Commonwealth and its issues and its people.” At the past five presidential elections, Kentucky voted for the Republican presidential candidate. At the state’s past five gubernatorial elections, the Democratic candidate won three of the elections and the Republican candidate won the other two.
 
As of 2019, 11 states held their gubernatorial elections during even-numbered presidential elections and 36 states held their gubernatorial elections during even-numbered midterm elections. New Hampshire and Vermont held their gubernatorial elections during even-numbered presidential elections and midterm elections because their gubernatorial term lengths are two years. Kentucky was one of five states that held their gubernatorial elections during odd-numbered years. The other four states are Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia.
 


Democrats win majority in Colorado State Senate and gain trifecta control

Colorado state legislators were sworn in on January 4, 2019, and for the first time since 2012, Democrats gained control of the state Senate. Since Democrats also maintained control of the state House and the governorship, the outcome of the 2018 election made Colorado into a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
Seventeen of the Colorado Senate seats were up for election in 2018. Going into the election, Republicans held 18 seats, Democrats held 16, and one seat was held by an independent. Ballotpedia identified six battleground races where the incumbent had last won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2014. These battleground races took place in Districts 5, 11, 16, 20, 22, and 24. Prior to the election, three of these battleground seats were held by Democrats (one of whom was term-limited in 2018), two by Republicans, and one by an independent (who was also term-limited in 2018). Democrats won all six of the battleground races and shifted the chamber’s partisan balance to 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
 
In addition to Colorado, five other states also became Democratic trifectas as a result of the 2018 elections: Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York.


Candidate filing deadline passes to fill seven vacant Louisiana House of Representatives seats

On January 11, the filing deadline passed to run in the special primary on February 23 to fill vacancies in seven Louisiana House of Representatives districts: 12, 17, 18, 26, 27, 47, and 62. Louisiana’s filing deadline was the sixth special election filing deadline covered by Ballotpedia this year. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a general election will be held on March 30 between the top two vote recipients.
 
The special elections were triggered after three Democrats and four Republicans resigned from their seats to either take another job or serve in another elected position. Heading into 2019, the Louisiana House is controlled by the Republican Party, with 59 Republican members, 36 Democratic members, three independent members, and seven vacancies.
 
All 105 seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives are up for election in 2019. The primary is on October 12 and the general election will be held on November 16, if necessary. The regular candidate filing deadline is August 8, 2019.


Jacksonville filing deadline preview

Jacksonville, Florida, is holding its elections on March 19, 2019, with a runoff election scheduled for May 14 if required. Candidates hoping to appear on the ballot have until January 11 to file for election. A total of 24 offices are up for election, including mayor, supervisor of elections, property appraiser, sheriff, tax collector, and all 19 city council seats.
 
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is one of 28 Republican mayors in the 100 largest cities in the United States. Curry was first elected in 2015 when he defeated the first-term Democratic mayor, Alvin Brown, in a runoff election. Curry and Brown faced two other challengers in the general election.
 
The city council is made up of five at-large seats and 14 by-district seats. Thirteen seats are currently held by Republican members and six are held by Democratic members. During the 2015 election, the Democratic Party saw a net gain of one seat and the council’s partisan balance went from 12-7 to 13-6. A total of 56 candidates filed for the 19 council seats that year, including all nine incumbents who had not yet reached their term limits. A special election for the District 12 seat was held in 2018; Randy White (R) was the only candidate to file for the seat.
 
The offices of the supervisor of elections, property appraiser, sheriff, and tax collector, are all held by Republicans. With the exception of the tax collector, who was elected in a special runoff in November 2018, all of them were elected in 2015. All four are serving their first terms.
 
Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 13th-largest city in the U.S. by population.


Filing deadline for Texas House District 125 special election

A special election for Texas House of Representatives District 125 has been called for February 12, 2019. Candidates wishing to run in this election are required to file by January 14, 2019. Justin Rodriguez (D) vacated the seat after he was appointed in January 2019 to serve as the Precinct 2 representative on the Bexar County Commissioners Court. Rodriguez held the seat from 2013 to 2019.
 
Three special elections have already been called to fill vacancies in the Texas House of Representatives in 2019, and all three seats were previously held by Democratic representatives. By comparison, five special elections for the Texas State Legislature were called in 2018, three to replace Republican legislators and two to replace Democratic legislators. Texas did not hold any state legislative special elections in 2017.
 
As of January, 24 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 12 states for 13 Democratic seats and 11 Republican seats. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Following the November 2018 election, the Texas House of Representatives had 67 Democrats and 83 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 76 seats. Texas has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.


Democrats now hold 31 districts that Trump won in 2016

The new U.S. Congress is facing divided government, a shutdown, and new leadership priorities under a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. As we move farther from the 2018 elections and closer to 2020, representatives from districts won by the opposite party’s presidential candidate in 2016 will be some of the most fascinating to watch.
 
Republicans ceded ground in Clinton districts—they hold three that she won in 2016, down from 25 before the 2018 elections. The three remaining Republican-held districts are:
 
– New York’s 24th, represented by John Katko
– Pennsylvania’s 1st, represented by Brian Fitzpatrick
– Texas’ 23rd, represented by Will Hurd
 
Democrats also made gains in Trump districts and now hold 31 congressional districts that he won in 2016. They held 13 of those districts before the 2018 elections. The current Democratic districts that Trump won in 2016 are located in the following states:
 
– Arizona
– Georgia
– Illinois
– Iowa
– Maine
– Michigan
– Minnesota
– Nevada
– New Hampshire
– New Jersey
– New Mexico
– New York
– Oklahoma
– Pennsylvania
– South Carolina
– Utah
– Virginia
– Wisconsin
 
Click here to start preparing for 2020 elections in the U.S. House.


Window to file Initiatives to the People in Washington opened on January 5; signatures are due July 5, 2019

January 5 was the first day to file petitions for Initiatives to the People in Washington to start the process; 259,622 signatures are due by July 5 to qualify the initiatives for the 2019 ballot. Ballotpedia checks for new filings daily, so be sure to watch our coverage for updates. As of January 11, no Initiatives to the People had been filed.

Signatures for two Initiatives to the Legislature (the other type of citizen initiative in Washington) were submitted to qualify for consideration by the legislature and then to appear on the November 2019 ballot in Washington if the legislature does not approve them. Sponsors for each initiative submitted around 100,000 more signatures than the number of valid signatures required to qualify.
 
Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct initiated state statute – called Initiative to the People (ITP) – or indirect initiated state statute – called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL). In Washington, citizens also have the power to ask voters to repeal legislation through veto referendum petitions. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments. The Washington State Legislature, however, may place legislatively referred constitutional amendments on the ballot with a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in each chamber.
 
Initiatives to the Legislature are considered by state legislators if enough signatures are submitted. If the legislature approves the initiative, it is enacted. If the legislature does not approve it, it goes to the voters. The deadline to submit signatures for 2019 Initiatives to the Legislature was January 4. Initiatives to the People go directly to the ballot if enough valid signatures are submitted.

 



Trump makes case for border barrier in televised address; Democratic leadership rejects request

In the televised address from the Oval Office on January 8, 2019, President Donald Trump said that there is a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border, and he called on members of Congress to allocate $5.7 billion to build a wall or steel barrier to protect the nation. He said, “At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need.”
 
In making his case for the barrier, Trump said that individuals who enter the country without legal permission from the southern border strain public resources and reduce job availability and wages. He also said that some drugs and criminals enter the country through the southern border, harming Americans.
 
In response to those, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who “have suggested a barrier is immoral,” Trump said, “Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”
 
The address took place on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown. Trump said that he would not sign legislation to reopen the federal government if it did not include border funding.
 
Immediately after Trump’s speech, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), issued a televised response rejecting Trump’s request for a border wall and calling on him to reopen the government. Pelosi said, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
 
Schumer said that Democrats support border security measures, but “disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.” Schumer also criticized Trump for creating a crisis that he said did not exist. Schumer said, “This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
 
In his address, Trump did not declare a national emergency over border security, something he is considering if Congress refuses to fund the requested border barrier. “Federal law allows the president to halt military construction projects and divert those funds for the emergency,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Democrats said that they would challenge Trump’s declaration in court if issued.


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